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'He bossed the game' | Is Ross...
Rugby

'He bossed the game' | Is Ross Byrne now Sexton's understudy for Ireland?

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

19:22 14 Sep 2020

Keith Wood and Ruaidhri O'Connor joined Monday Night Rugby to discuss the performance of Ross Byrne in Leinster's 27-5 win over Ulster at the weekend.

Attention turned to Byrne's role for Leinster and Ireland, where he has often been seen as some way off challenging his captain for province and country, Johnny Sexton.

O'Connor believes that Byrne is now in the box seat to take over from Sexton when the time comes.

Ross Byrne

"Ross Byrne must be wondering what he has to do to get a bit of positive PR, but he deserves it after the weekend," said O'Connor.

"He has been waiting patiently for Johnny Sexton to head off into the sunset. He turned down a move to Munster when Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora were trying to get himself and Joey Carbery to move. He saw off Carbery at a time when people thought [Carbery] was the better player.

"He backed himself and Leinster backed him, and he is still waiting patiently for Sexton and now everyone is now talking about his little brother!"

O'Connor talked about Brian O'Driscoll's comments about Harry Byrne last week, where the former Ireland centre praised the younger of the pair as the better out-half.

"[Harry] is the flashier player, and has the athletic ability to go on and become a world-class player ahead of Ross. But Ross now has a proven CV of delivering in a lot of very big games for Leinster, against the best teams in the world.

"He steps in for one of the best players in the world and the team's performance rarely dips.

"His game management, which is one of those slightly undefinable things [...] he comes in and makes the right decisions at the right time for his team. His technical abilities are very good, he rarely makes a mistake, his goal-kicking is very good and his option-taking is the biggest thing.

"He makes the right decision almost every time."

Word of caution

While still complimentary, Keith Wood took a little more sober approach to his analysis of Ross Byrne's game, in light of Leinster's opponents when he plays.

"I would look at Leinster when Ross Byrne is playing, and he tends to play in awful lot of the games that are not finals. He has played in a couple of semi-finals and done well, but other players have had to do very well.

"I still think that he sits too far back, and he didn't at the weekend. For me, he took a big step. He is often defensively a little bit meek in the tackle, but he wasn't at the weekend."

This augurs well for Leinster, believes the former Ireland captain.

"For me, it looked as if he had been given the jersey and he felt that he has to prove that this is his jersey going forward. I think that it is a masterclass from Leo Cullen to do it - it is a good selection that keeps a guy on top of his toes.

"He has to start thinking that he wants that jersey to be his. He needs to take control. Tens take control, that is all you ever want as a forward. He did a really good job of that yesterday.

"I felt that he bossed the game."

Sexton

O'Connor believes that Byrne's performances are a serious boost for his province as Sexton basks in the autumn sun of his playing career.

"He had earned that start, having started the semi-finals against Munster last year, he has earned a start in the final.

"He drops out of the team this week, you would expect, but if anything happens to Sexton, they would have no hesitation in putting him in because of the role he has played in their success so far and the trust they have in him.

"Ross has proven himself to be a very willing and hardy competitor, and I think he is Ireland's number two out-half at the moment."

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